Contrasting direct and representationalist (indirect) perception

by Neil Rickert

In a discussion at another site, I am noticing some misunderstanding of what is meant by direct perception.  I’m seeing comments similar to “vision uses photons, so is indirect.”  Those who favor direct perception have never denied that vision uses photons, retinal receptors and neurons.  The usually prefer saying that visual perception is mediated by photons, neurons, etc.  What they disagree with, is the idea that first a representation is formed inside the head, and then we perceive that representation.

Apparently this distinction is confusing.  So I plan a short series of posts where I contrast direct perception and representationalist perception.  This post is the introduction to that series.  The subsequent posts in this series are:

Illustrating with science

It is sometimes said that scientific discovery is learning written big, and scientific data acquisition is perception written big.  The problems that science must solve to acquire useful data are similar to the problems that a perceptual system must solve to gather information about the world.  I shall use that analogy between perception and science, to illustrate what is meant by direct perception.

My next post in this series will give a representationalist account of getting temperature data.  I’ll follow that with a post on a direct way of getting temperature data.  And then, in one more post, I will attempt to point out the important distinctions.


4 Responses to “Contrasting direct and representationalist (indirect) perception”

  1. I completely agree. It is a mistake to suggest that the directness of perception requires that there be no causal intermediaries (although I think there are philosophers–like Travis and Hyman–who don’t believe perception is causal at all.



    • although I think there are philosophers–like Travis and Hyman–who don’t believe perception is causal at all

      Yes, there are such folk. And I guess that might be a common dualist position. I never think to mention that, because it is so hard to take it seriously.

      Thanks for your comments.



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